Narrative Therapy is considered a non-blaming approach to the problems clients deal with. This type of therapy is a respectful and collaborative approach to counseling and community work, focusing on people’s ability to externalize problems. Narrative Therapy was developed by Michael White and David Epston. The central idea to this therapy is ‘the person never IS the problem. The person HAS a problem’. It essentially focuses on the stories of people’s lives and is centered on the theories that problems are based or manufactured in social, cultural or political contexts [ (Morgan, 2000) ]. This therapy relates in many ways to postmodernism, which believes that there is no one objective “truth”, but that there are many possible interpretations of any one event. Thus with the narrative approach the lives and stories of clients are seen as multi-storied vs. single storied.
Michael White is from Australia (December 29, 1948 – April 4, 2008) he was considered the guiding genius of narrative family therapy [ (Joanna Paratore, 1998) ]. He started out as a mechanical draftsman, and soon realized he preferred people much over working with machines. He soon moved to family therapy where he became attracted to the techniques of cybernetic thinking of Gregory Bateson [ (Joanna Paratore, 1998) ]. He showed more interest in the ways people hold meanings in their lives than just looking at the ways they behave. David Epston, the other genius to the development of narrative therapy was born in Canada [ (Combs, 1996) ]. He was originally trained as an anthropologist, then turned to social work and moved to New Zealand. He first began his work as a therapist in the public system devoting his time to children and adolescents in a hospital, in the late 1970’s he transitioned onto a private practice [ (Combs, 1996) ]. His anthropological training gave him significant knowledge of social connections and was well versed as a “story teller” and even created a Story Corner in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy (Combs, 1996). Together through their practice and experience they have developed a different approach to therapy, which they have described as the “down under” therapy. They met in 1981 and have co-authored numerous articles and consider each other brothers.
All of us have many stories that we live with that affect our lives in a number of different ways; the theory within this therapy is the multiple stories people are living with that are acted out in many outlets through one’s family, community, or friends. An individual’s dominant story commonly has a deeper influence on their life. The therapist really listens and looks for covered up stories that may aid in the healing process of the client [ (Morgan, 2000) ]. They bring forward any covered up aspects to their story found as the client discuses their personal story. The counselor will talk the client through their story and really find the struggling characteristics and conflicting aspects to what they are describing, to allow the client to become fully aware of how it is really affecting their social and coping skills by essentially externalizing the patient’s experiences or problems.
The use of specific terminology is important in narrative therapy. Michael White views his use of precisely chosen language as inevitable, though it is seen sometimes as unfamiliar language, as it describes ideas outside mainstream traditional therapy [ (Payne, 2007) ]. A consciousness of language usage is seen by White and Epston as a central responsibility of therapists. White states that: “We have to be very sensitive to the issue of language. Words are so important. In so many ways words are the world. So I hope that a sensitivity to language shows up in my work with persons and, as well, in my writing” [ (Payne, 2007) ].
The techniques of narrative therapy really differ from other approaches to therapy. White and Epston’s technique follows three steps and...
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